Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On Council Presidents

"I have issues with both [declared contestants], to be honest," Councilwoman Theresa Smith said yesterday. Mr. Burgess seems too close to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, she said, and Mr. Peduto seems too far away.

Councilman Peduto has shown backbone. He took a strong stance against Ravenstahl's tuition tax. However, he has repeatedly shown that when push comes to shove, he can work with Ravenstahl on issues from street lights to over-arching reform.

Let's give Peduto a chance to keep Ravenstahl on his toes and compromise when needed.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Google and Pittsburgh

Multiple choice question:

What's the #1 reason Pittsburghers move away?

a) They want to live in a sunny climate.
b) Not enough bands and music acts have Pittsburgh on their tour list.
c) They want to pay more for housing.
d) They can't find a job.


And the answer is?

d) Jobs

Anecdotally, every person that I've talked to that left the city, did so because they couldn't find a job in the city.

Google, our potential savior, is tapping into that lack of jobs. They have expanded their operations from 2 employees to 100 in the past few years. From a software engineering perspective, Google is Mecca. When I told friends I was moving to Pittsburgh, they started gushing to me that Google had an office in Pittsburgh. But I was turned off because Google was on Carnegie Mellon's campus. Being a graduate of a different technology school, I felt I would be shunned from that club. Now, Google is taking a big step in Pittsburgh. Google is moving to the new Bakery Square development in East Liberty. Google and Pittsburgh's relationship has moved beyond the college campus boundaries and only good things can come of it. Congratulations to the folks at Google for realizing that there's more to Pittsburgh than CMU. And to those software engineering Pittsburgh ex-pats, there's never been a better time to come home.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Congratulations to Baba D's

When Toby Keith and whoever has enough money can open a bar on the South Side, then you knew Bruce Kraus's stop-gap measure of a "saturation limit" on bars in the South Side wasn't going to fly in the courts. This was proved yesterday by the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas.

Judge James found that the ordinance was illegal because the city can't create special rules for bars. The city law was "an infringement on the power of the [state] Liquor Control Board and is invalid" becasue state law reserves most power to regulate alcohol for that agency.

I completely understand why the "saturation limit" was imposed. People that live on the South Side Flats were sick and tired of people pissing on their lawns and leaving broken bottles everywhere.

But the stop-gap measure was not the solution. All limiting the number of bars did was make it more expensive and difficult to get a liquor license. It did not increase the number of toilets on the South Side. It did not increase the number of trash cans. Ultimately, it was bad for small businesses. Baba D's was the scapegoat of this law. This restaurant was denied a liquor license and fought the law. They won.

Now, maybe we can get serious, read the South Side Hospitality Proposal, and actually address the South Side's issues?

Or not.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus, who represents the South Side, has already proposed a slightly modified version of the ordinance in a preemptive effort to keep it in force in the case of a court decision like the one rendered yesterday.

Oh well.

Port Authority Police

Did you know Port Authority has its own police? In the past 8 years, they have expanded their operations to include digital forensics (2001), a bike unit (2002), and 2 canine units (2003).

For the past 2 years, this 39-member police force has been in time-consuming and money-consuming contract negotiations with Port Authority. What do they want? Health benefits just like the city and county police have. My suggestion? Port Authority stops wasting more county money and rolls this department into the County police department. Then the Port Authority officers can get the benefits they deserve. I shudder to think of all the duplication of services here between high-tech equipment, canine training, and an entire police station to say the least. How can we even begin to consider consolidating city and county services while entire police units roam wild?
"Members have the legal right to strike, though DelSole said the police had not decided whether to do so."
Of course, the big question is: Would anyone even notice if they went on strike?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Weird Pittsburgh News

3 Weird Pittsburgh News Bits that caught my eye this Friday

1) A church bought by a controversial billboard company may become a national immigration museum. Perhaps Lamar wants to clean up their bad name around these parts? Perhaps they'll move the unfinished electronic billboard to the vicinity of the church and finally clean up the mess that is the lighting of the Grant Street Transportation Center?

2) Both Russell Crowe and Jake Gyllenhall are self-proclaimed fans of Pittsburgh. Jake Gyllenhall went so far as to show off his (presumably fake) Pittsburgh Steelers tattoo. After the Sienna Miller fiasco, it's a shock to hear celebrities speak well of the city. I guess they left their hotel rooms.

3) The county and Judge Wettick appear to have agreed on a timeline to *gasp* reassess property values. This is my favorite unexpected news of the day. County Executive Onorato has been on a high horse about refusing to perform anything even tangentially related to a property reassessment, even if it's requisite to taxing county residents fairly (and is required to follow the state constitution). This about face makes me breathe a sigh of relief. But the following caveat makes me wary: "[P]roperty owners would have to pay taxes before appealing [property assessments]."